Doctors Discover New Form of Dementia

Tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each year.

However, some scientists now question if doctors are overlooking other possible causes for dementia.

A brain scan offers clues about what is causing memory loss explains UCSD neurologist, Adam Fleisher.

"The spaces inside the brain and outside the brain as the brain is shrinking," says Dr. Fleisher.

Then again, forgetfulness and mental decline do not always mean Alzheimer’s.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD, a rare brain infection, associated with mad cow disease also causes dementia.

Scientists now suggest that some cases of Alzheimer’s are actually CJD.

DR. Fleisher explains, "CJD, you often see areas that light up very bright in this {X-ray} area here and 'CJD can mimic the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease."

That is where the similarities stop because Alzheimer's usually begins around age 72, while CJD can strike at any age.

Short-term memory loss is associated with Alzheimer’s, while long-term memory loss is common early on among CJD patients.

Mental decline also happens in a matter of months with CJD, instead of years for Alzheimer’s patients.

Also, physical symptoms do not appear until the late stage of Alzheimer’s, but they are almost immediate with CJD.

"So if someone is having a rapidly progressing dementia then you have to think of things other than Alzheimer’s," says Dr. Fleisher.

There is no test to tell for sure whether memory loss is Alzheimer’s or CJD, but the right diagnosis will make a difference in getting treatment.

Dr. Fleisher confirms, "There is not a definitive treatment for CJD. And although there's not a definitive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, the disease has a much longer process and we do have ways to slow down the disease now."

The center for disease control is now collecting autopsy data to determine if Alzheimer’s disease is indeed being mis-diagnosed.

So far, they say more than 92-percent of Alzheimer’s cases are correctly diagnosed.

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